The job of a parent is a challenging one at best. To be responsible for tending to the basic needs of, loving and socializing another human being is no slight task. It can be and often is complicated further by special needs of different kinds and special circumstances. Adopting a youngster who is of a different race than the adopting parents is probably not the most severe complication that can occur ‘” but is certainly a consideration that cannot be ignored.
Without getting into the ‘˜whys’ of the phenomenon, it is clear that either the numbers of cross-racial adoptions have been on the increase or that many that are taking place are receiving more media attention. The latter is, perhaps, attributable to a number of celebrities adopting children from other countries and cultures, but there also seems to have been a growing interest in and openness to cross-racial adoptions in recent years.
Most thinking people understand that pretending to be ‘˜color blind’ and acting as though color differences neither exist nor matter is foolish. When the parents attempt this, the children I see in my practice, think there is something wrong with their parents! Kids notice things about themselves and about others.
Avoiding or straightforwardly refusing to talk about something a child observes and has questions about is not the stuff of good relationship building between parent and child.
Acknowledgment of the reality is of the essence. Then of course, explaining to the child, in ways and to degrees that they are developmentally prepared to understand and process the information, data about their origins, situation of birth and the adoption itself become increasingly important.
Information and education about the child’s culture of origin will, at some point, be essential. Best introduced incrementally as the child is able to absorb and understand it, is generally the most effective strategy. It’s a little like talking with a child about where babies come from.
You don’t answer the question of a two year old with a verbal tome about intercourse and fertilization. The challenge is to answer the question(s) honestly in a way that is developmentally appropriate for and understandable to the child. Such is the case for the inevitable (and predictably normal)questions about racial differences from kids adopted by parents of different races and cultures.
The information they are really seeking may not be, literally, reflected in the way they form the question. It is always important to be certain (or as certain as you can be) about what the actual question is. This often takes some time to clarify particularly with a young child. A primary grade child who asks where he comes from may not be asking a bio-genetic question at all. It may be something far more concrete and child-like. S/he might want to know what city they were born in!
So, 1) Listen carefully, 2) clarify what is really being asked, and then 3) always answer the question in the most honest and developmentally appropriate way that you can. These three basic tips are useful in dealing with any child ‘”perhaps, even with any person of any age — Transracially or not.